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‘Freakatorium’ auction offers sideshow collectibles

Sideshow collectibles auction: Potter & Potter Auctions announces its nearly 700-lot Freakatorium: The Collection of Johnny Fox Auction on Nov. 10, 2018.
Freaks Alive, $3,000-$5,000. Photos courtesy Potter & Potter Auctions

Freaks Alive, $3,000-$5,000. Photos courtesy Potter & Potter Auctions

CHICAGO - Potter & Potter Auctions announces its almost 700-lot Freakatorium: The Collection of Johnny Fox Auction to be held on Saturday, Nov. 10, 2018 starting at 10 a.m. at the firm’s gallery, located at 3759 N. Ravenswood Ave., Chicago, IL 60613. Renowned sword swallower, magician, and performer John Robert Fox (1953-2017) amassed a huge spectrum of grotesque, bizarre, and surreal sideshow curiosities, which he displayed at his Freakatorium, “El Museo Loco,” in New York City from 1999-2005. All of these wonders will be on display and available for preview Nov. 8-9 from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. in the Potter & Potter facility.

Hand-painted signs for Johnny Fox’s Freakatorium, $400-$600.

Hand-painted signs for Johnny Fox’s Freakatorium, $400-$600.

Many of the sale’s top lots are associated with the big top and other traveling entertainment venues of the 19th and 20th century. Lot #1, a brightly painted sideshow banner by the “Picasso” of circus art Fred Johnson (1892-1990) is estimated at $4,000-$6,000. Titled “Freaks Past and Present,” this circa 1950 piece from the O’Henry Tent & Awning Company of Chicago measures 115” x 316” and depicts an array of famous sideshow acts, including a three-legged man, a two-headed man, a frog boy, and others. The images are flanked by bright panels of text.

Lot #15, a Snap Wyatt Studios circa 1945 “Freaks Alive” entrance-type canvas sideshow banner is estimated at $3,000-$5,000. This 100 1/2” by 342” banner features sideshow attractions such as the alligator skin lady, a conehead, a sword swallower, and more. It is branded with two stenciled Snap Wyatt logos. Lot #338, a color lithograph depicting Jumbo the elephant giving kids rides on his back is estimated at $3,000-$5,000. This circa 1882 linen-backed poster measures 37” x 31” and was produced by Strobridge of Cincinnati.

This grand event rounds out with robust offerings of taxidermy, antiques, artwork, and selections that defy conventional categories. Lot #245, a brass “Champion Strong Woman of the World” trophy belt presented to Minerva (Josephine Blatt, circa 1869-1923) by Richard K. Fox of The Police Gazette in 1893 New York is estimated at $3,000-$5,000.

The Barbershop Lesson, French hair art, $600-$900.

The Barbershop Lesson, French hair art, $600-$900.

Lot #43, a detailed illustration of a barber and wig shop, executed entirely in human hair, is estimated at $600-$900. This French work, dating from the 19th century, measures 26” x 22 1/2” and features a distracted barber with straight razor in hand, a wary customer, a wig restorer at work, and other characters.

And bidders are certain to lock horns over lot #287, a “unicorn skull” made by artist Mark Frierson in 1999. It was displayed at the Freakatorium under a banner reading “skulls are extremely rare and this particular specimen is only one of a handful known to exist in the world today. It was uncovered from beneath the ruins of an ancient medieval castle in Europe.” The unicorn skull is estimated at $500-$700 and includes its original Freakatorium signage.

After the Nov. 10 ‘Freakatorium’ event, the company’s next sale, featuring hundreds of vintage travel posters, will be held Dec. 1, 2018.

For more information about both auctions, visit

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